Two-time defending Australia V8 Supercar driver Jamie Whincup heads to Hamilton this weekend for the ITM400 while not quite invincible, demigod-like at least.
He rocketed out of the blocks in the first two rounds of the 2010 championship series, winning the first four races and finishing fourth in race five. The only blemish was an 18th in the last race in Adelaide, when he was black-flagged for a loose rear-end.
Whincup had a dismal time in his first year around the Franklin District streets. He took on a concrete barrier and wrecked his car. But he redeemed himself last year by cleaning up in the Waikato.
"Hamilton's a place I've had mixed emotions. The big right-off in qualifying the first year, and not making the race - and winning the races the following year," said Whincup.
"Hamilton's definitely the place I've experienced the most highs and the most lows.
"Last year's win was big because of the new qualifying system, and having to fight back made it a really good win."
Garth Tander is the only driver to have usurped Whincup this season. He won both races at the last points scoring round at Adelaide in March and is now the only driver eligible this year to win the $2.6 million Grand Slam prize.
Any V8 driver who can win the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, Supercheap Auto 1000 in Bathurst, the SuperCarnivale on the Gold Coast and the Sydney Telstra 500 in a single season will take home the big cheque. Tander won all three in 2008.
He likens the Hamilton track to Adelaide. "It's a narrow track, quite bumpy, with aggressive kerbs and close walls - everything that street events are all about, Hamilton's got them," said Tander.
The Toll Holden Racing Team driver sits 11th on the table - but it's a long season and, on recent form, Tander will be up with the front-runners.
At the other end of the spectrum, Greg Murphy is the rank outsider according to bookmakers, at odds of around 120:1 to win the first race. The four-time round winner when the event was held at Pukekohe hasn't had the best of years lately and 2010 hasn't been any better.
His last win on home soil was at Pukekohe in 2005 and uncompetitive cars in the last few years have seen him struggle.
Murphy's move to Paul Morris Motorsports this year sees him in a Triple Eight-designed Holden and he was one of the fastest qualifiers at the non-point's scoring event at Albert Park last month.
"It would have been nice to have had a few more runs on the board before we turned up," said Murphy. "But I always look forward to coming home and racing in front of Kiwi fans.
"The car's very good and I'm happy where we are with that, but we really haven't done the job yet when it comes to finishing the process, which is not good. It's a big deal for all the Kiwi boys and it's about time one of us came good because it's been a while."
Mark Winterbottom, second in the table, and James Courtney, third, have, at times, had a good showing at Hamilton and if they can string two good races together are sure to be a real threat to Whincup.
Craig Lowndes hasn't had the best of luck at Hamilton and his time may have come. He's been strong this year, tucked nicely in sixth in the table. The Vodafone cars haven't fired as a pair on the Kiwi streets yet and this could be their year.
"Definitely looking forward to coming over this year," said Lowndes.
"I haven't really had a good run at Hamilton and I'm looking forward to rectifying that.
"We'll be keeping an eye on Shane van Gisbergen though as he's always quick there."
As for the Kiwis, the smart money will be Van Gisbergen who has had a strong season so far and likes the Hamilton circuit.
The driver who comes out on top after the dust has settled come Sunday afternoon will be the one who drives the smartest, stays out of trouble and keeps his car off the kerbs. Combine a thinking driver with a fast car and you'll have your winner.
10 TO WATCH
The two-time Supercar V8 champion has been beaten only once this season and then by another Holden driver, Garth Tander. Whincup likes Hamilton and won there last year after an appalling time first up on the circuit. The man to beat.
Victorian Holdsworth continues to get better and will be one to watch. Last year he had a third and a fourth and will be hoping to be on the podium at least once over the weekend. He qualifies well, always a bonus on a street circuit.
Don't make the mistake of thinking Lowndes is his teammate Whincup's wingman. He'll want the win this weekend to haul himself back into the top three and get some momentum to push towards another title.
Shane van Gisbergen
The young Kiwi has been consistently fast and on the podium so far this season and will want to build on the momentum. He'll be keen to be the first New Zealander to stand on top of the podium in Hamilton and will have the crowd behind him.
Tander won all three races in 2008 but had, by his standards, a mediocre round last year. After a slow start this season he's come good and will be confident after winning the non-point's scoring round at the AGP.
The FPR driver is hanging on to the coat tails of Whincup early in the season 57 points behind the series leader. He put his car on pole in Hamilton last year beating Whincup by just 0.0007 of a second. He could be the man largest in Whincup's mirrors.
Third on the table after six races, Courtney has innate speed and finished second to Whincup in Sunday's race last year to back up his two thirds in 2008 on the streets of Frankton. Has been consistent this year and is ready to taste victory again.
The former New Zealand Touring Car champion has yet to fire in Hamilton despite showing pace in qualifying. Now in his second season with Brad Jones Racing, he's confident he'll be there, or thereabouts, come Sunday.
Another who at times flatters to deceive but on his day can be devastatingly quick. He's having an up and down season so far but is still inside the top 10 in the championship. As the series winner in 2006 he shouldn't be regarded lightly.
This weekend Murphy really needs to do the business. He owned the New Zealand round of the V8 Supercars at Pukekohe and needs to reassert his authority. Murphy's good on street circuits and may be the joker in the pack.
* Toll Holden Racing Team ace Will Davison and Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney are the only drivers in the field to have driven a Formula One car. Davison tested in a Minardi-Cosworth PS at Misano, Italy in 2004. Courtney was the official test driver role for Jaguar Racing in 2001 and 2002.
* The Hamilton circuit is in the record books for the closest pole positionwinning margin in the history of the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship Series. Mark Winterbottom took pole position for the Saturday race last year by 0.0007s from Jamie Whincup.
* Six New Zealand-born drivers will line up on the grid for the ITM400 Hamilton; Shane van Gisbergen, Steve Richards, Jason Richards, Fabian Coulthard, Daniel Gaunt and Greg Murphy.
* Greg Murphy still holds the record as the most successful driver in the V8 Supercar series events with four round wins at Pukekohe in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. In that time he won a total of nine individual races and took pole position twice but is yet to open his account in Hamilton.
* Jim Beam Racing's Steven Johnson celebrates his 150th Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar championship series event start at Hamilton. The Queenslander becomes the 13th driver to reach the milestone. He has started 337 individual races with three wins and 11 podium results. Johnson took pole position for the Sunday race last year in Hamilton. With team-mate James Courtney qualifying second, it was the team's first 1-2 on the grid in just over a decade.By Eric Thompson